How did you change your misogynist views?

Misogyny and xenophobia are closely related

The road to an authoritarian state is long. Misogyny is one of the penultimate warnings. As such, it is part of an overarching problem and needs to be tackled by a comprehensive approach.

I know that even before I have finished the first sentence on the subject of misogyny, I will have generated further letters full of misogyny. Other women will be among the senders, an estimated 80 percent will be men, according to statistics from the Federal Criminal Police Office. You will write that there is no misogyny, that I just can't take criticism. Some will put their messages in vulgar and derogatory words. There is only one astonishing thing about it: They themselves provide the evidence of precisely that misogyny which, in their opinion, should not even exist.

Against this background, should one write about misogyny, or should one leave it? For personal peace of mind, the keys should certainly rest better. But then not only would nothing change, but the situation would get worse. Fifty years ago on February 16, 1971, the term "Fräulein" was deleted from official German. From then on, a female adult no longer had to marry a man in order to be officially full and no longer to be classified as a "little woman".

Physical strength was comfortable

Conversely, attractiveness was no longer restricted to young femininity ex officio. Today the holy furor breaks out when it comes to gender - but even then those who advocated its abolition were insulted, ridiculed and despised. They too could have left it. Just like those who fought for women's suffrage.

Such episodes of history became possible because men, by virtue of their physical superiority over women, were used to it from archaic times, when a punch to end a discussion was still the lingua franca of determining the course of events. So it's no wonder that "little man" has never become a form of address. Physical strength was also convenient: instead of having to develop a relationship with a woman, you just took what you wanted. I have no idea what God or nature was thinking, at least it led straight to patriarchy and to a lot of suffering and violence. To this day we struggle with the legacy.

Links from misogyny to right-wing populism

Only in the modern age could the social Darwinist structures of thought of humanity be broken up somewhat. Factual arguments, scientific and technical progress gradually developed more persuasive power than duels, fights or wars. This modern development could only be stopped with revanchist means, ergo with a lot of suffering and violence. Misogyny is therefore an indicator of the state of our democracy. Misogyny is a penultimate warning on the way towards authoritarianism - a final warning would be action against political opponents regardless of their personal characteristics.

This week, "Der Spiegel" impressively demonstrated the connections between misogyny and right-wing populism à la AfD, right-wing extremism, Islamism and terrorism. Whether jihadists or the attackers in Hanau, Halle, Christchurch, Oslo - all of them had not only racist and anti-Muslim, but also misogynistic motives. In Poland the problem has already reached the state level. The ruling party PiS, which is dominated by right-wing conservative men, has pushed open the door to authoritarianism a little further, shoulder to shoulder with the spokesmen of the Catholic Church.

Demos in Poland: The abortion law has deprived women of the right to determine their own bodies. (Source: Maciej Jazwiecki / Agencja Gazeta / Reuters)

Misogyny is the continuation of the old xenophobia

First it was against refugees and "strangers", then against homosexuals and trans people, en passant the media and justice were razed. Now the PiS under their father Jarosław Kaczyński has started the next test balloon with the attack on women by depriving them of the determination of their own bodies by means of abortion law. Entrenched behind the advanced argument that it is about protecting unborn life, they are now watching whether their balloon comes through.

Misogyny is the continuation of the old xenophobia. Once the latter has been communicated to society, one dares to tackle the "women's problem". Everything that stands in the way of the traditional balance of power must be cleared away. You can say to Poles with Greta Thunberg: "I want you to panic." We in Germany, who are still far from Polish conditions, are not immune from the danger. So we have to act.

Better empirical data needed

The demand to make misogynistic motives more visible in our police crime statistics, as recently raised by Digital State Minister Dorothee Bär (CSU) and which the SPD now apparently wants to take on, is absolutely correct, but not enough. But it is necessary to be able to grasp the problem empirically. Legal, political and social countermeasures can be better adjusted with the data obtained.

The spectrum is wide: it is about the image of women in religions or the glossing over of femicides as "jealousy" and "acts of relationship", "family drama" or "honor killings". Just like the address "Miss" once was, catcalling, old man jokes and other sexism should continue to be ostracized. Much more than ostracism, however, is required in the case of misogynous attitudes and anti-feminist agitation from the manosphere around masculists, Incels, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) or Pick-Up Artists (PUA): for example, the extension of Section 46 StGB, which includes the Criteria for sentencing include those that the German Association of Women Lawyers has been calling for for a long time.

Misogyny is relativized as excessive

Currently, only racist, xenophobic or other inhumane motives are explicitly listed. Anti-Semitism should be added as an aggravating penalty, that much has been agreed. Sexism also belongs in this series, so that the problem comes more into the social consciousness. Because misogyny is similar to Islamophobia - its existence is still partially denied or put into perspective as exaggerated.

Such measures would not, however, eliminate the dangers to democracy. We need a holistic view. Everything is related to everything - anti-feminism, anti-Semitism, Islamism, homophobia, ableism, anti-Muslim racism, anti-gypsyism, etc. We basically have to learn to think intersectionally. The mechanisms of the enemies of democracy are the same, their orientations interchangeable: sometimes it's skin color, sometimes origin, sometimes belief, sometimes worldview, sometimes gender ... Male superiority fantasies mix with religious, ethnic or nationalistic. They are often difficult to separate. No woman or man is left out just because the other is hostile. When authoritarian tendencies emerge, in the end everyone's lifeworld narrows.

Joint advocacy for equality

We need more cohesion. We have to break away from the isolated consideration of the respective inhumane individual phenomena. Anyone who denounces misogyny must denounce xenophobia. Anyone who complains about anti-Muslim racism must complain about homophobia. The aim is to work together for freedom, plurality and equality for all groups. Emancipation means promoting democracy in practice. We should not allow ourselves to be divided as the enemies of democracies intend by doing whataboutism. On the other hand, we as a society must be able to speak and not allow ourselves to be intimidated.

Some misogynists are more relative with reference to hatred of men. There is hatred of men and it is utterly wrong as well. However, both phenomena cannot be put on the same level. That would be just as problematic as the equation with "racism against whites" invoked by the right. It is a different matter when people talk about "headscarf girls and other good-for-nothing" or "old white men". In the case of the latter, speakers mostly refer to a group that, in contrast to the former, is privileged - from which a particularly large number of people have a disproportionate amount of power, so that they dominate the institutions; that applies in this country, in Saudi Arabia the assessment would be different.

Allegedly "weak sex"

It's about structures, not individual cases. Of course there are "old white men" who are marginalized and need protection. Cartoons are good when they hit the strong, not the weak, and the more powerful people like Turkish President Recep Erdoğan complained about cartoons, the more we would defend them.

Many women of the same sex play down their own injuries when they are sexistically hostile. I'm probably no exception from time to time. As a supposedly "weak sex", we do not want to show any weakness. We don't want to be victims. But we are not as a group either, and therefore it is important that we women have the courage to denounce attacks against us - just as this applies to all groups that are attacked. It is not they who are to blame, they are not the problem, but those groups that use their strengths to the discriminatory disadvantage of others.

Read more columns by Lamya Kaddor here.

Lamya Kaddor is an Islamic scholar, religious educator, publicist and founder of the Liberal Islamic Association (LIB). She is currently leading a research project at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Her current book is called "The thing with the bratwurst. My somewhat different German life" and was published by Piper. You can also follow our columnist on Facebook or Twitter.

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  • News,
  • Lamya Kaddor,
  • Racism,
  • Islamism,
  • Sexism,
  • Terrorism,
  • Equal rights,
  • Right-wing extremism,
  • Xenophobia,
  • anti-Semitism